During a time when University President George Ross has placed so much emphasis on transparency, communication and listening, the Board of Trustees did the exact opposite at Thursday’s formal meeting.
Graduate Student Union President Michelle Campbell emailed the Board of Trustees more than two weeks ago requesting an action item on the agenda allowing CMU and the union to begin bargaining. When the item was not addressed during formal session, Campbell inquired about it during the public comment portion of the meeting and was met with silence.
The board, as per policy, did not comment on Campbell’s request, and Ross said the university needed time to prepare before discussing bargaining. He said the issue would be brought to the table in either February or April.
Although Ross’ response is typical in compliance with board policy, the entire situation could have been met with more care.
Only one board member responded to Campbell’s email, saying the board would look into her request.Nobody provided Campbell with a concrete explanation as to why her request was not granted, and not one board member encouraged a discussion.
The tone of the university begins with its leader, and Ross has the ability to make an impact on everything, from the board to the administration and faculty. If he were to encourage university-wide responsiveness, Ross’ actions would have a trickle-down effect and would impact every facet of CMU.
But when members of the CMU community feel as though they’re being ignored by their leaders, anger and frustration arise as opposed to productive conversations and action.
The board should change its policy regarding response to public comment. By denying discussion, the board comes off as unresponsive and uninvolved.
A full-fledged discussion doesn’t need to occur after every public comment, but a simple “we’ll look into it” or explanation of why it cannot be discussed would be satisfactory.
If Ross wants to heal wounds caused by last year’s events as he’s spoken about all semester long, it begins with acknowledging requests such as Campbell’s. Although he is only one member of the Board of Trustees, he is significant in directing the attention of board members and the university as a whole.
Until people feel as though their voice is being heard and taken seriously, the rift already created within the university will only grow larger.